Help protect young gannets, charity urges

Thumbnail image002

The birds can become stranded on shore in stormy weather.

9th October 2019 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

A wildlife charity is asking residents and visitors along the Firth of Forth coastline to help young northern gannets as they fledge from the colony on the Bass Rock.

The Scottish Seabird Centre said it had received a number of reports about the young birds, known as gugas, being washed ashore following recent stormy weather.

During the early stages of their lives gugas are unable to fly, so can easily become stranded on shore during windy days.

The charity is urging anyone who spots a stranded young gannet to contact them or the Scottish SPCA for assistance.

Maggie Sheddan, the centre’s Bass Rock landing guide said: “Not all gugas that are washed ashore will require help so it’s important to know what to look out for. If the birds are feisty and make a move to attack you, or to run into the sea, they probably just need to be left to rest. Keep your distance.

“If the guga is not moving much, and you can get closer to it, then it’s probably in need of more help. We are therefore appealing for people to be extra vigilant over the next few weeks and to alert the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999, or to make contact with the Scottish Seabird Centre on 01620 890202, if they spot a guga in need of assistance.”

Every year the Bass Rock is home to a colony of 150,000 gannets – the largest in the world - and their young are starting to jump from the Rock as they fledge. Although they usually stay in the water, high winds can wash the gugas ashore from where they can require assistance to get back home. The gugas do not have the white plumage of the adult birds but they are large, upright in stance and have a dark, speckled plumage.

Maggie added: “Some of the gannets on the Bass Rock are fitted with a numbered leg ring, tag or other data loggers as part of scientific research into the gannets’ movements. We would like to be able to retrieve these devices as they contain valuable data that helps inform conservation activity, so please contact us if you see a grounded guga with these devices.

“If calling for assistance, it’s important that you provide accurate information on your location. This might be a street name and house number, or where you are in relation to a visible landmark on the shore or one of the islands in the Firth of Forth. Details on accessibility by footpath or road are all helpful details for the SSPCA or Scottish Seabird Centre.”